Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

Alex is 6 years old, and he's already lost 6 teeth! Derek has only lost 5, and he's 8 years old. Alex lost his front 4 teeth on the bottom first, and then lost one on top not long ago. We were hoping he'd lose the other top front one (which was loose) in time for Christmas, and Monday morning when Alex got up, he showed me how loose it was. He wanted it pulled before school, and he didn't flinch as I pulled it out. He thinks it's great that there's a Christmas song that he can sing about his teeth!
Also, on a completely different subject, Alex learned how to tie his shoes yesterday. Yea! We've been working on it for awhile, and he finally put it all together yesterday while we were at the barn for Derek's therapeutic horseback riding.

As you can see, it's been an eventful week. However, we are still no closer to getting Katie's name corrected on her Certificate of Citizenship. It's still a "he said / she said," with no one claiming responsibility. We'll just keep plugging along!

Katie's First Day of Preschool

Katie started preschool at the Early Childhood Center on Monday. Alex went there for 2 years, and the assistant in his classroom his second year is Katie's teacher. Katie loves Mrs. James, and she loves going to school. Arranging transportation was a little interesting, but we found another mom who can carpool and everything is working out beautifully for her and for me. Anthony and Katie took to each other very quickly and they love having a friend to go to school with, even though they are not in the same class. We've talked about how tiny Katie is, and this picture may give you an idea: Anthony is only 5 months older than Katie.
After getting inside the school, Anthony went down his hall, and Katie and I went down hers. We had visited the school last Thursday so Katie could see her room and visit with Mrs. James, and she felt completely comfortable on Monday. She just strutted down the hallway wearing a backpack that she could fit inside of, and struck a pose when I asked her to stand against the wall outside her classroom. She waltzed in her room, gave Mrs. James hugs and kisses, and said, "Hi, guys!" to the other kids as she walked towards her cubby. It was like she had been there all year.
On Tuesday morning, we walked with Alex to his bus stop, and Katie wanted to wear her backpack to Alex's bus stop. Normally, Katie stands near me while we wait for the bus, but on Tuesday, she stood near the other kids. When the bus came, Katie didn't walk over to me like she usually does. Instead, she lined up with all the other kids to get on the bus. I guess she figured that after one day of preschool, she was ready to go to school with the big kids. She had a bit of a tantrum when she realized that she wasn't going to be able to ride the bus. At least I know she won't have any trauma when she starts riding the bus next year. She's already ready!
Katie did well both days of school so far, and I really think she's going to take off. She is such a sponge right now, and wants to know what everything is called, what all the letters are, what sounds the animals make, numbers, you name it. I am so excited to see the progress that she will make this year.

Trick or Treat

Katie thoroughly enjoyed her first Halloween! The Junior High had a Trick or Treat Village that we went to on Monday night, 10/27. Alex didn't go, due to the type of day he had at school that day, so Captain Hook and Tinkerbell went without Peter Pan. Katie was a little unsure of everything at first, but as soon as she saw she got candy, she started walking up to people, holding out her hand and saying, "candy." She quickly learned to say, "Trick or Treat," and to hold up her bucket. By the end, she was a pro, and she loved all the attention she was getting. Derek loved his Captain Hook costume (who wouldn't?), and he did a great job saying, "Trick or Treat," too. With his hook and his cane, there wasn't a third hand to hold his bucket, so he just used the hook to hold the bucket. It fell off a few times, but overall it worked really well.
On Friday, my MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group had a Halloween party for all the kids, so Katie got to wear her costume again and get even more candy. Yippee!
Alex didn't have school on Friday due to parent teacher conferences, so he got to go to the party, too. One of his buddies from his kindergarten class was at the party, too, so the two of them had a ball together!
After the MOPS party, I took Katie to Derek's school for his Halloween parade, while Steve took Alex to the golf course for 9 holes. Steve's work has gone to a more flexible schedule, so now Steve works an extra hour most days and gets every other Friday off. Halloween happened to be his Friday off. Alex did FANTASTIC on the golf course, following directions, and cleaning each and every one of Steve's golf balls at each hole. Hey, it kept him busy and out of mischief.
Derek did a great job at his Halloween parade, and Katie was a big help, too. One of Derek's classmates had to go home ill that day, so Katie walked around with us and filled up Frank's bag for him so he could have candy when he returned. I did let her choose 10 pieces for us to take home, though. It's hard to take pictures at Derek's events because I usually have to help him quite a bit, so you'll have to trust me when I say that he and Katie did great, and all the costumes were beautiful.
Finally, the big night arrived, and they were ready to go. We started last year going to the Liberty Square before dinner to Trick or Treat, and it was great for Derek. The neighborhood is tough for him, because of all the steps at the houses, and every house is different. Some steps are deep, some shallow, some tall, some short, some straight, some curved, and some combine two or more of these. Derek just gets tired of struggling up and down all the steps. At the Square, however, all the businesses have someone at the door handing out candy, and the shops are all very close together. Therefore, there are no steps, and we don't have to walk very far between shops. Derek does great, gets to successfully Trick or Treat, has a wonderful time, and doesn't get tired. It's a win all around.
Here they are getting ready to go to the Square, and Captain Hook has snagged Peter Pan's dagger. Tinkerbell is just looking cute!
By now, Katie had Trick or Treated 3 times, and she was an old pro. She loved it through and through.
When we got home from the Square, we ate bloody worms and bones (spaghetti and garlic bread), and then went out in the neighborhood. Derek lasted 5 houses before he was ready to go home, which is one more than last year's 4, so Steve went home with Derek while Alex, Katie, and I kept going. We went to countless houses, saw lots of friends, and I even saw a mom that I had gone to high school with, but hadn't seen in 18 years and had no idea we lived in the same neighborhood. Small world, huh?

All in all, the kids had a wonderful time, and so did we. We are loving every minute with our children, and while we are excited for what the future holds for them, we are treasuring each and every day. Kids grow up so quickly, so we are holding on to this time that they are in Neverland.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kathryn or Katherine?

Well, Katie has been home with us for a little over 2 months, and for a little under 2 months, we've been dealing with her name. We chose the spelling Kathryn for Katie's name for 2 reasons: we prefer the way it looks, and we have ancestors on both sides with that same spelling. When we were in Moscow in May, Andrei and Sergei needed to draft some documents for the court hearing with her new name, so Andrei had us write that down. He was very insistent that we spell it correctly the way we want it to be spelled so that there are no mistakes. We got the message after the first time he told us, and we wrote down her new name for him.

Between our second and third trips Andrei obtained the court decree, birth certificate, adoption certificate, etc. and the translators translated them into English for us, for the Embassy, and for Immigration. When we returned for our third and final trip, Andrei had all these documents and he was pretty much guarding them with his life until we went through the Embassy at the end of the week. I don't think he trusted us very much. When we finally were able to see the documents, we saw that every single one had her name spelled Katherine. While that is a beautiful spelling, it is not the one that we chose for our daughter. The problem is that even though there are several ways to spell that name in English, there is only one way to spell it in Russian. Russian is a phonetic alphabet so there is only one way to write each sound in a word. Therefore, going from English to Russian was quite simple, but going from Russian to English means the translator needs to make sure he/she chooses the correct spelling. There is a standard handbook that translators use, and apparently it has the spelling of Katherine. This wouldn't have been a problem if the error had been caught and new translations were completed. However, this did not occur, and by the time we even saw the documents it was too late. Andrei had already sent all the translators on vacation because except for us, there wasn't going to be any more work for them for 2-3 more weeks. There was no one to correct all these documents, so we had to submit them as they were to the Embassy and Immigration.

After we returned home, we contacted Olga at our agency and explained the problem to her. She redid the translations for the birth certificate, adoption certificate, and adoption decree with the correct spelling. Meanwhile, the Certificate of Citizenship arrived with, of course, the wrong spelling. We have to use this certificate to get Katie's social security number, so we're stuck until that gets corrected. I contacted our local USCIS office and inquired about what I need to do. If Immigration made an error, then they will replace the certificate for free. If Immigration did not make an error, then there is a fee of $380 to replace the certificate. They requested copies of the original documents to see how her name was spelled to determine if they are at fault. Three weeks later, USCIS informed me that all the documents had her name as Kathryn except for one: the adoption decree. According to USCIS, they have to go by the name as it appears in the adoption decree. Therefore, the error was not due to Immigration but rather due to the incorrect translation done by the agency. Consequently, we need to go to the courthouse, have her name legally changed from Katherine to Kathryn, and mail that document along with form N-565, the original Certificate of Citizenship, and a check for $380 to get a new certificate. Since we didn't do anything wrong, we don't want to pay the fee. We explained all this to our agency and asked for them to reimburse us for the fee. After a week of them researching this matter, our agency declared that the name for the Certificate of Citizenship should not come from the adoption decree but from the Visa application, which is filled out by the parents (and has the correct spelling) pursuant to statute blah, blah, blah. So the agency's stance is that Immigration was at fault and needs to replace the certificate for free. Frankly, I don't really care who was at fault, but I have to put on my detective hat and go sleuthing through this mess to figure it all out. Katie needs to have her name spelled correctly everywhere, she needs a social security number, and I need to keep $380 in my bank account.

So today I called USCIS, and after I pushed all the necessary numbers on the phone to get to a live person (shockingly, none of the automated options quite suited my situation), I spoke with Andrea. She gave me the email address to the adoption officer at our local USCIS office and advised me to explain the situation along with my name, date of birth, country of birth, first pet's name, and my 6th grade locker combination. I should hear a response in 2-3 business days.

Meanwhile, we had Katie screened at our school district last Wednesday, and she qualified for the Early Childhood Center. Yea! She was average for motor skills, but her language and concepts were low enough for her to get in. Her language delay is for obvious reasons, and the concepts skills are language based. For example, to demonstrate that she understands the concept of "under," she was told to "put the block under the house." Well, she has to know what put, block, under, and house all mean in order to complete the task. I was actually impressed with all she could do after only being in our country for 2 months. As I was filling out all the enrollment information, I saw that her social security number was required. My heart sank, because at the rate the process is going it'll be spring before she gets it, and I really want her to start as soon as possible. She is so ready for school right now. I called the school and explained the situation, and they said that it wouldn't be a problem, they won't keep her out, and I can just give them that number once I know it. Once again, yea!

So the saga continues as I wait to hear from the adoption officer at the USCIS office.

I know I'm doing a terrible job with posting pictures, but that's because I'm doing a terrible job with taking the pictures. I promise that I will take some pictures soon and I'll post them. However, at the rate I'm going, they're just going to be their Halloween pictures. As a teaser, let me just tell you that they are Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and Captain Hook, and you've never seen a cuter group from Neverland!

Friday, October 10, 2008

To See or Not To See?

Derek and I flew to Detroit, MI on Wednesday for a follow up appointment with his retinal specialist, Dr. Trese. We've been seeing him for almost 8 years, and he knows Derek's eyes better than anyone else in the world. Also, he is one of, if not the, best retinal specialist specializing in Retinopathy of Prematurity in the world. We have met people from Mexico, The Netherlands, and Italy who have flown to Detroit just to see him. The least I can do is fly from Kansas City. We use Angel Flight -- an organization where pilots donate their time, plane, and gas to fly people for medical appointments -- for these flights. The best part is that the pilot we always use is my dad. Everybody wins: Derek gets to his appointment, Derek gets to fly (which he LOVES), I don't have to pay for it, I get to catch up on my sleep on the plane (hee, hee), my dad can claim the gas expense as a deduction since it's a charitable contribution, and my dad has an excuse (as if he needed one) to be off in the wild blue yonder. Dad is also a certified flight instructor, and one of his students actually flew the plane this time with Dad in the right-hand seat.

We took off a little after 8:00 and landed at Detroit City Airport a little after 12:00. It was a 3-hour flight with a one-hour time change. The student made a great landing despite the heavy cloud coverage and rain in Detroit. We ate at the same Subway that we eat at every single time, and got to our 2:00 appointment with time to spare. Dr. Trese got a pretty good look at Derek's eyes, and everything seems to be unchanged. At this point, "no news is good news." We are just trying to keep Derek's eyes healthy and viable for future technologies. The worst thing that can happen now is for one or both of Derek's eyes to stop growing, shrink, and eventually die. If that happens, then there is no hope. As long as his eyes hang in there, there is hope. Right now, Derek's left eye (the good one) has a large area of attached retina, but it is very thin and avascular, and therefore doesn't work right. Derek's right eye is cloudy due to a swollen cornea that he's had for a few years. Therefore, Dr. Trese can't see all the way to the back of the eye to know if there is any attached retina. Often when the retina is detached, it will "float" up to the front of the eye. Dr. Trese can only see about the front 1/4 of Derek's right eye, but he doesn't see any retina in that part, so that's something. When we have done VEPs (Visually Evoked Potential) in the past, they show some brain activity in response to his right eye, so Dr. Trese believes that he at least has something attached back there. A VEP is where they attach electrodes to the back of Derek's head, right where his occipital lobe is. The occipital lobe is where vision is processed. Then they cover one eye, shine a strobe light, and record the brain activity for about 10 minutes. Then they repeat this with the other eye. Finally, they do this with both eyes open. This test cannot deliver a false positive or a false negative. If there is brain activity, then he saw something. The stronger the response, the greater the vision. We've done 3 of these in Derek's life, and each time Derek's eyes have seen something, with the left eye having a greater response. A corneal transplant would probably take care of the cloudiness, but since Derek is blind, he's not exactly a candidate. Per Dr. Trese, we're going to try some new drops for about a month, and if we see improvement, great. If not, we'll stop them.

Derek's next appointment will be in 6-8 months, and this one will be an exam under anesthesia (EUA). For this, we'll fly up on a Sunday, spend the night, and report to the hospital some time on Monday. While Derek is under anesthesia, they will get a really good look at his eyes and be able to check his pressures as well. Many kids with ROP develop glaucoma, so that's why it's so important to check his pressures periodically. So far, his pressures have always been perfect with the help of his current eye drops. The actual exam only takes about 15 minutes, but we're at the hospital for about 3-4 hours. Then we'll fly home that night. We fly commercial for Derek's EUAs, and since his insurance covers travel expenses it won't hurt our budget (yea!). For the last couple of years, Derek has had an EUA in October, and an office visit in April. Since Derek is getting older and more compliant in the office, we were able to do 2 office visits before doing another EUA. Small victory.

After our appointment was over, we drove back to the airport, and took off. We had a roller coaster moment as we were ascending, when the student pilot had to rely on his instruments rather than his vision (due to the clouds) to determine the plane's position in the air. After some time and instruction, the student leveled out the plane, and I was able to resume reading my book. Other than that, we had an uneventful flight home, and landed at about 8:00. It was a 12-hour day, but that's better than a 13-hour drive one way!

As for the future technologies, stem cells have been in the forefront of possibilities for Derek. Dr. Trese has one hand in the office and one hand in the research, so he knows exactly what's going on. Unfortunately, the stem cells are going to take some more research and won't be ready in the 2-5 years that Dr. Trese had thought. What's happening is that when the stem cells are injected in the retina, they are not integrating with the retinal cells to regenerate. Instead, the cells are dividing on top of themselves, creating a lump -- a benign tumor. They are experimenting with trying to "train" the cells (whatever that means), and that has shown better results, but still not what we want. Another possibility is the micro chip. This is implanted in the retina, and a processor is implanted in the brain. Between the two, they can send the visual message to the brain and the person can have some sight. The micro chip is only 60 pixels, but the image is not as grainy as you would think. Individuals are able to see contrasts, shadows, large objects, etc. If Derek is ever able to see enough to maneuver in his environment, we would be thrilled. Right now, the estimation for when the micro chip would be ready and on the market is 2 years. I won't hold my breath, but we'll see. Nonetheless, whenever the technology is there, Derek's left eye should be a candidate.

Please keep him in your prayers, and we'll see what the future holds for him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Weekend in Texas

We drove to Dallas / Ft. Worth last Thursday for my uncle's BBQ / family reunion. We weren't sure how Katie would do because the 4-hour drive to Branson got pretty tough at the end, and this was 9 1/2 hours! She did pretty well until just before 10:00, and then she fussed off and on until we arrived at midnight. I would love it if she could sleep in the car, but she only dozed off for about 30 minutes twice. Needless to say, she was pretty grumpy when we arrived, but she did alot better than we expected, so we were happy.
Due to people's schedules and preferences, we all got down there different ways. I drove with my mom, Maddy (my niece), Derek, and Katie. My dad flew down on Friday with Drew (my nephew) and Alex. Steve was at a conference in Orlando that week, so he just arranged for his flight to go to DFW instead of back to KC, and I picked him up from the airport around 5:30 on Friday. My brother and sister-in-law left after work on Friday and got in Saturday morning, and my oldest brother and his family already live in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.
Friday morning, I took the kids to see my friend, Nanette, and her family in northern Ft. Worth. Spencer was in school, but the rest of us went to McDonalds for lunch. Nanette and I had a lovely visit while the kids played. Here's Derek, Maddy, Katie, and Serena.
Next, we drove north of Dallas to see my friend, Jennifer, and her family. I got to hold her new baby, Olivia, who was just born last Tuesday, and Derek loved holding George, her Guinea pig. Katie was "resting," and was not particularly happy about the arrangement.
After picking up Steve at the airport, we drove to my uncle's house, which is north of Fort Worth, for a family dinner. It is always wonderful seeing family again each year. I finally got reunited with Alex who had been with one or both of my parents for the previous 26 hours, Derek got lots of snuggles, and Katie did very well meeting all these new people. She clung to Maddy quite a bit, but she also allowed others to hold her, too. With all the time Katie and Maddy spent together, they developed a beautiful bond. As much as Katie thinks I hung the moon, she started preferring Maddy on this trip. I told Maddy that if she ever needs a self-esteem boost to just hang out with Katie for awhile! The way Katie looks at Maddy with such sheer adoration is so heart-warming.

Saturday morning, we went to see my friend, Arian, and her family just north of Ft. Worth. Alex and Logan are 2 peas in a pod, and had a great time together. Katie played with Emme's toys, and Derek entertained himself with a roaring dinosaur. It was a lovely visit. Here's Derek, Katie, Alex, Logan, and Emme.

Now that the whole family had arrived, we all had lunch together before getting a new family photo taken - there's 14 of us now. We spent the evening at Uncle Cecil's BBQ, and we all had a great time. Katie was no longer shy around all the new family, and just made herself at home with everybody. I didn't get a lot of pictures, but I know my cousins did. During the BBQ different people get up and sing. Derek sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Happy Birthday" to Nana, whose birthday is Thursday. Here's some video of "Happy Birthday." The picture isn't very good because it was dark, and the mike was going in and out a little bit, but you get the idea.

Alex played on a rock pile for hours with other little boys (surprise, surprise), and Katie made the rounds, dancing and playing with just about anybody.
Sunday morning we all met for brunch before driving home. All I can say is portable DVD players make traveling so much easier! We pulled in our garage at around 8:00, relieved it was a decent hour. It was a hectic trip with many late nights and very few naps, but the kids did great, and I was thrilled to be able to see 3 of my college friends.
On another note, we had Katie's pictures taken several days ago, and they're now available online. I thought you might like to see them. She was a little hesitant at first, but then she warmed up to the camera and had a good time. Just click on the link below, and enter KAREN TRISCHLER for the customer name. I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Date Night!

We had our first date night since bringing Katie home, and it was nice. We've been practicing with her to teach her that when we leave, we always return, and she's been doing really well with that. About 10 days ago, we went to our first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, and she was in a room with about 10 other kids and 2 adults. She cried when I left (as I knew she would), but it only lasted a few minutes and then she did great the rest of the time. Last Wednesday, Steve's parents came over and watched the kids while we took a walk around the neighborhood with our cell phone. She did very well, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous for our walk! Then, on Saturday night, we went to Starlight Theater to see Les Miserables. For those of you who don't know, Starlight is an outdoor theater, which plays 5 Broadway shows and countless concerts each summer. We've had season tickets for the Broadway shows for about 10 years, and we love going there. We missed Fiddler on the Roof in August, because we were in Russia, and we were hoping to get to see Les Mis. Well, Katie did great! She didn't have any tears, and went to bed just fine with Grandma and Grandpa, and Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed Les Mis. The only bad part was the weather. It rained the entire show. Starlight doesn't cancel for rain, so we were all outfitted in our ponchos and ball caps. There are very few shows for which I will sit in the rain for 3 hours, and Les Mis is one of them. It was nice having a date night again, and nicer still that Katie did so well.

Today, we had kind of a "date afternoon" as we went to the Chiefs game. My mom kept the kids at her house, and once again, Katie did great. My dad, Steve, and I went to the game, which was less than memorable. Neither the Raiders nor the Chiefs are very good this year, and we lost 23-8. The most exciting part for me was the singing of the national anthem, which was done by David Cook (this year's American Idol winner) and his brother, Andrew. It was a beautiful rendition, and their voices just soared. I'm also a sucker for a good male singing voice. The most exciting part for Steve was waiting for my dad and me to return with the brats and cokes!

Monday, September 8, 2008


Well, Katie is keeping us on our toes. Since she was speaking all sorts of Russian, we learned what many of her phrases meant. There were still some that we couldn't figure out, but we did the best we could. Now, she's sprinkling in some English words just to keep us off balance. At first I was puzzled at the new phrases and words I was hearing and was at a loss as to their meaning when I realized that she was speaking English! So now when she speaks we have to first decipher if it's Russian or English, and then determine her meaning. Even though she is speaking some English, she doesn't always pronounce the words correctly, thus adding to the confusion. We're muddling our way through, though, and enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Her sleeping is coming along nicely. Now she's just mad about having to go to bed instead of being sad or scared. Her naps are sporadic - some days she sleeps, and others she just lays there singing to herself. However, she's sleeping about 10-11 hours at night! She's often fussy during the day, which may indicate sleepiness, but really it's because she doesn't like to be told "no." Steve and I actually chuckle to ourselves sometimes at her drama, because she's usually not even in trouble. She'll ask for something (my shoes, my cell phone, Alex's Leapster, etc.), I'll tell her "no" or "not now," and she'll either sulk, cry, scream, or throw herself on the floor in a tantrum. You see, in the orphanages, everything was community property. If she saw it, she could have it (as could any of the children). She doesn't understand yet that some things belong to certain people. She'll get there, of course, but it will take some time.

We are having a come-and-go party this Saturday the 13th from 3:00-5:00 so that anyone who wants to meet Katie can. If you are in the KC area and did not get my email invitation, then I either don't have your email address or it was an oversight. We would love to see you on Saturday!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Where Do I Fit In?

Katie got her first haircut with Auntie J about 10 days ago so now it's much more even than before. Katie did great, and just sat there as still as a statue until she was finished. Auntie J even styled it for her and Katie loved that!
Katie and Derek are getting along very well. Whenever Derek asks where Katie is, she is pretty good about responding (when prompted). One night, Steve was reading a bedtime story to all the kids, and Katie stood up, walked over to Derek, and sat in his lap. The amazing part is that Derek actually let her stay and didn't push her off! He generally doesn't like to have people in his "space," but he made an exception for Katie.
Alex and Katie are getting along more like a typical brother and sister do. Katie pretty much loves Alex all the time, but Alex is sometimes bothered by his little sister. Some days he loves playing with her, other days he wants to be alone, and still other days he is somewhat mean to her. He is learning to adjust to our new family dynamic as much as the rest of us are. We've had some good talks with him, and he's been open and honest with us. We told him how much Derek struggled when we brought Alex home almost 3 1/2 years ago, but now they are wonderful brothers and friends. I think that helped Alex. Alex was a little more emotional and clingy for awhile, but he seems to be doing better in the last few days. We are also trying to make sure that we don't expect too much from him. He's still 6, and we are trying to make sure that we don't suddenly ask him to become an assistant parent. Also, there are many things that Alex can do independently that neither Derek nor Katie can do due to age and development. Therefore, Derek and Katie naturally get attention as we help them with these tasks. We are making a concerted effort to give Alex just as much attention, if not more so, and that seems to be working as well. All this being said, I wouldn't even say that Alex is struggling. It's probably more accurate to say that he is just trying to figure out our new family dynamic, and we are so proud of him.

Weekend at the Lake

We went to Table Rock Lake for Labor Day Weekend, and all the kids had a wonderful time. We went with my parents and my brother and his family. Katie got her first taste at swimming / floating in the lake, and once she got over her initial trepidation, she enjoyed it for short periods of time. Here she is with 2 of her cousins, Maddy and Drew.
Derek knows how to go boating in style. All he needs is a fruity drink with an umbrella in it!!
Grandaddy, Alex, and Drew enjoying an evening boat ride with Uncle Andy at the helm.
Katie really took to the boat, and didn't seem to be afraid at all. In fact, on Monday morning before we left to come home, we took one last boat ride, and she fell asleep lying down in the front of the boat. She stayed asleep despite all the crashing we did on the waves.
Katie, Alex, Maddy, Drew, and Derek. What a great group of cousins who love each other very much.
Katie even rode the innertube with me (twice!), but I didn't have my camera with me that time. She was really a trooper and hung in there even when we went airborne a couple of times. After one pretty big set of waves she let us know that she had had enough, though.

The kids always have such a great time when we go to the lake, and they even got to play with some neighbor kids on Monday morning. The neighbor boy and Alex are "lake best friends," and the big sister was like a mom to Katie, carrying her everywhere. The fact that Katie was okay being without Steve or me for awhile was a big step for her. She also went on a golf cart ride with Grandaddy - without Steve or me. These are big steps for her.

Last week on Monday I left the house for an errand, leaving the kids with Steve. The fit and tantrum that Katie pitched was worse than anything I had ever seen from any child anywhere! Katie had been fine when Steve had left, but she clearly was not fine with me leaving. I paused at the door, wondering if I should leave when Steve looked at me (holding a kicking and screaming child) and said, "Just Go!" We wanted her to learn that it's okay for mom to leave, because mom will return. She calmed down after awhile and was fine the rest of the time I was gone, so the next 3 evenings I left for an errand. On Tuesday she cried (but no fit), on Wednesday she was sad (but no tears), and on Thursday she blew me kisses, waved, and said, "Bye-bye." Whew. We haven't tried both of us leaving yet. At the lake it was different because she was the one walking out the door - not us. Each day we are building more trust, a stronger bond, and a greater attachment. She is doing great!

Monday, August 25, 2008

We're Adjusting

All I can say is I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to write another post. Last week was a blur as we recovered from jet lag, helped Katie with her sleeping, got the boys off to school every day, and slept whenever we could (which is why I haven't written for so long).

Things are slowly getting into a nice routine, and we are feeling much better. Katie didn't eat much the first few days we were home, but starting last Wednesday, she's been eating much better. Some meals, I'm shocked that she can eat so much. Isn't your stomach about the size of your fist? You may remember that her sleeping was a bit off, and it got worse before it got better. Wednesday and Thursday nights were really tough with at least 30 minutes of screaming each night at bedtime with more crying and/or screaming during the night. We felt bad for the boys, but they said they never heard her (thank God for small favors). She would be this sweet little angel all day, and then the minute we would walk into her room to put on her pajamas, the screaming would start. Then Friday night, Steve got her to bed relatively calmly, and at 9:45 she started screaming, fussing, crying, etc. and writhing in the bed as though she were in pain. Nothing we said had any affect on her, and then we noticed something. Her eyes were shut the entire time. She was having night terrors! We were certain of it, and that explained so much. Because of the night terrors she was afraid to go to sleep, and that's why she would scream at bedtime; she knew what was going to happen. It reminded me of that movie, "Nightmare on Elm Street."

While it was nice knowing why she was having trouble, it didn't provide any solutions. The only solution I know for night terrors is time, and it was breaking my heart to see her so miserable. Part of me felt just horrible because she never had night terrors while we were in Russia; they didn't happen until we got to America. I wondered if we caused this. Is this change just too much for her? Alex had night terrors just 2 times - once each of his first 2 nights in America, and they weren't bad at all. Katie, though, was struggling. However, the rest of Friday night, she slept pretty well. She made a few noises during the night, and she got up once, but it was much better than the previous 2 nights. Steve was developing a nice bedtime routine with her so we have continued with that, and Saturday night and last night she went to bed calmly and stayed asleep all night. She's not at all happy about going to bed, but she's doing better.

Soooo, Katie is sleeping better, we're sleeping better, and I'm finally over the jet lag. Steve went back to work today, and the boys are in school, so Katie and I have begun running the errands and working on the To-Do list that has built up over the last 3 weeks. I was hoping to be caught up with life by the end of last week, but my new goal is in 2 weeks since we're going out of town Labor Day weekend.

As summer winds down to a close, I hope all of you had a good one. My summer was wonderful in that we have our daughter, but on the other hand, I don't feel as though I really had a summer. I'm looking forward to a delightful fall!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

Well, we made it! It was an 11-hour flight to Atlanta, a 4-hour layover, a 2-hour flight to Kansas City, and a 9-hour time difference. When our plane landed, we had been up for 24 hours.
Katie slept 1 hour on our flight to Atlanta. She really handled the flight very well, all things considered, but after the battery died in the DVD player and Cinderella went bye-bye, she was not as amicable as before.
We tried to get her to lie down and sleep some more later in the flight, but she was so tired that she started refusing very loudly. Not wanting to be pushed out of the emergency exit by a disgruntled passenger, we relented. However, as the plane was descending and we all had our seatbelts on, she decided that she was too exhausted to sit up and started crying (very loudly) because she couldn't lay down. Therefore, Steve broke all FAA rules and held her as we touched down in Atlanta. Here is the moment that Katie became a U.S. citizen.
She perked up in Atlanta, and was enthralled with my cell phone as we passed the time. I didn't have it on at all in Moscow because it won't work there, so the first time she saw it was when I pulled it out to call our parents. We boarded our plane to KC, and Katie fell asleep before the rest of the passengers finished boarding. She slept the whole 2 1/2 hours except for a 30-minute stretch in the middle when she was very fussy trying to get comfortable again. She was plum tuckered out!
We arrived at the KC airport to find our parents just beaming away at their first sight of Katie. Katie was more than a little bit grumpy and had nothing to do with any of them. We went straight to bed as soon as we got home, and we all slept pretty well that first night. The boys were still at my parents' house, Katie was in her bed, Steve was in our bed, and I was on an air mattress on Katie's floor. She woke up at 3:30 crying, but after I calmed her down, she went back to sleep until 9:00.

Yesterday, she woke up and met the cat first. Then we went to my parents' house to get Alex (Derek had gone to school that morning.). After her nap, Derek got off the bus, and then we brought the dog home last. She has done well with each introduction, and she absolutely LOVES playing with Alex. Alex loves playing with her, too, but he won't admit it. She's still trying to figure out Derek, and Derek LOVES to hear Katie talk.

Last night, we all slept in the same places except the boys were now home, and they were in their beds. Katie woke up at 2:00, but wasn't crying. She just woke me, I sat up, and she laid down in my bed on my pillow. I simply put her back in bed, and she went back to sleep. This morning we sent both boys to school, and Katie had her pediatrician appointment. The doctor is very pleased with her development, so now we are just trying to get more medical information from Russia. We had asked for certain information, but we didn't get it (or it wasn't translated), so we're trying to fix that. She also got a stuffy nose starting Sunday night, so we suspect that she may have allergies. We're starting her on medicine, and we'll see how she responds.

Katie is really adjusting beautifully into our family, and the boys are doing a great job with her as well. The only issue right now is getting her to bed. In Moscow, she went to bed very well the first few days, and then it became increasingly more difficult. She has moved gradually from walking calmly to bed and climbing in, to sulking, to whimpering, to silent tears, to choked sobs, to crying, to screaming. Since the screaming didn't start until we got home with Alex, we think she just doesn't want to stop playing with him. We think the build up prior to that is for another reason. We have read that sometimes when children from orphanages get adopted, they are afraid to go to sleep because they are afraid that when they wake up their new mom and dad will be gone. This makes alot of sense with her because as we have spent more and more time together, her bond with us is greater, she has more invested, and she has more to lose if we are gone. Now obviously we are not going anywhere, and we are confident that she will come to realize that eventually. It will just take some time. She doesn't cry for long because she falls asleep so quickly, and we don't have the same problem if she wakes up during the night.

Alex and Katie before Alex started his first day of Kindergarten (Derek was already at school). For 2 kids with no commom genes, don't they look alot alike?

Alex, Katie, and Derek

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our Final Post From Moscow!!

Since we first saw Katie in May and we accepted her, the orphanage has let her hair grow. I'm kind of glad they did, because it no longer has a boy look to it. However, it was also in her eyes terribly, which is why I always put it in pigtails. Last night, I couldn't wait any longer, and I went ahead and cut her bangs -- with my cross stitch scissors. Needless to say, that was probably the worst haircut that she will ever receive, but it did the job, and her hair is no longer in her eyes. Katie also likes it alot better, and this morning she wanted her hair pulled back in barrettes instead of in pigtails. It's amazing to us how different she looks with a simple hair change!

This morning we took Katie to a park that we visited earlier this week. The weather was just perfect -- cool with a slight breeze. Katie started off on the swings (her favorite), and then while walking around became very interested in some kids playing in the sandbox. She just stood there for the longest time watching them.

After they left, we went in to play, and she was so dainty using the shovels to clean off the seats.
She wasn't too sure about the seesaw at first, but then she figured out that it is fun!
The pigeons were a constant source of amusement for her, and she kept trying to catch them. After awhile, she started getting irritated with the birds for not allowing her to catch them. How dare they! :-)

This evening, we walked over to a pizzeria called Pinocchio's to eat out. We found this place when we were here with Alex, and we ate there with him on our last night in Moscow. We thought it would be appropriate to eat there again with Katie on our last night in Moscow. It was a nice walk across the bridge over the Moscow River, and the food was good, as always.
Steve thought of something earlier this week. Derek was born in Kansas, so he is a Midwestern boy through and through. Alex and Katie both became (will become) citizens as soon as the plane lands in the U.S., which for Alex was New York, and for Katie it will be Atlanta. Therefore, we have a Midwesterner, a New York Yankee, and a Southern Belle all mixed together in our family!
Steve is packing up our things as I type this, and we are excited to be coming home and seeing our boys. At 9 days, this has been our longest trip away from them yet, and we are so ready to go home and be a family.
Joe and June, thanks for the comments. I hope you had a great time watching Fiddler at Starlight with Gena and Paxton!

Friday, August 15, 2008

All Our Work is Done

Today we spent the morning relaxing around the apartment watching Katie just play and play. She is really good at playing by herself, but she also loves to play with us. She loves to draw and to take things out of bags and then put them back in. She helped me work on her stocking a little bit, too.
After lunch, Andrei picked us up at 1:00, and took us to the U.S. Embassy where we got Katie's passport complete with her visa, and all her documents - birth certificate, adoption certificate, court ruling, etc. We also got a sealed envelope with copies of all these documents that we'll have to give immigration in Atlanta when we land. The envelope HAS to stay sealed or the contents are no longer valid and we would have to return to Moscow and go through the embassy again. Needless to say, that envelope is tucked away, and will not be touched!
After the embassy, we went to the Russian Consulate to register her, and then we were home at 3:30 or so. Katie just about fell asleep in the car on the way back, so we put her down for a late nap when we got back. She was so tired that she was apparently able to sleep in any position!

After her nap, we walked around a little bit and went to the store for a few things to get us through Sunday. We came home, played in the playground outside our apartment, and ate dinner. We decided to call our parents to let them know that all went well at the embassy, and Katie talked to Nana for awhile. She was absolutely hilarious because she was just chattering on and on to Nana about who knows what (and she was very passionate about whatever it was), and yes, we took video. We also took a picture.
Poor Nana had no idea what she was saying, but she enjoyed the conversation nonetheless.

Tomorrow is a free day before we fly home on Sunday. While we are so glad to be finished with all our work, we won't really feel as though this adoption is complete until we get home. It's just not the same when you're living out of a suitcase in a country where you can't speak or read the language.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Killing Time Before We Go Home

Steve successfully got Katie's passport this morning, but Andrei has it with the other paperwork that we will file with the embassy tomorrow afternoon. While he was gone, Katie amused herself by wearing my shoes over hers around the apartment. Watching her walk in them was absolutely hilarious so we took some video of that, too!

After lunch, Katie helped me cross stitch her Christmas stocking. She did a really good job, too,
Then we had nap time. Steve gave me some rest time this morning by taking Katie with him to the grocery store, so he made up for that this afternoon.
After dinner we took the Metro to Red Square. Katie had fun running around for a little bit, and then we walked around G.U.M. (goom) and got some ice cream. It was a very muggy, humid day today, and all we brought were jeans so we were pretty hot. However, none of the Russians wear shorts either. In fact, many were even wearing long-sleeved shirts today!
On the Metro going back to the apartment. She really likes the ride!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pictures for Yesterday's Post

Here are some pictures that I should have included with yesterday's post.

Hitching a ride with Daddy
Sitting atop a walrus with Mommy's sunglasses
Staring intently at the elephants. She was fascinated by them, and kept pulling us back when we tried to leave.
Katie's first train ride. I forgot to mention this one yesterday. She watched the train twice before she decided that she wanted to ride it. And even with that, she still asked one of the workers something, which resulted in the worker walking next to the train and holding her hand. She never acted scared, but she also never really smiled.
Walking back to our apartment from the zoo munching on a snack. It was lunchtime!
Sadly, we don't have pictures of any of her other firsts. It wasn't until the end of the day that we realized that she had had so many, so we hadn't made a point to document all of them. We often get caught up in the moment, and we forget to grab the camera. Oh well. In case you were curious, Steve and I both slept better with the switch so that may be how we keep it until we leave here.

A Day of Firsts

Today was a big day for Katie. We went to the zoo this morning, and Katie saw all sorts of animals. At first she would look at them rather skeptically, but after awhile she started running up to the fence to see what the animal was and to tell me all about it. Often there was a Russian mom nearby with her child, and Katie would take that opportunity to talk to her. She loves us to pieces, but she can't quite talk to us just yet. After her lunch and nap, Katie rode the Metro for the first time to Old Arbat street, a shopping area. She thought the trains were pretty cool, and she would laugh and giggle everytime one of them came into the station. We were a little disappointed with Arbat Street this time because there weren't any vendors out today. It was a pretty hot day today so they probably didn't want to stand in the heat. At the end of Arbat Street there is a McDonald's so we stopped there for Katie's first fast-food meal. She was so enthralled with all the people, that it took her forever to eat just 2 Chicken McNuggets! We then took the Metro to Kievskaya to buy some toilet paper and to look for some sunglasses for Katie. She was squinting something terrible all day today, and I felt so bad for her that I gave her my sunglasses to wear. I had to put the ends of the ear pieces through her pigtails to keep them on, but they seemed to help a little bit. She looked so cute with them on, too. After going through store after store, we finally found some children's sunglasses, but the cheapest ones were almost $40! I don't even spend that on mine! We found some more at a different store, and they were on sale for about $90. Needless to say, Katie will just have to do without until we get back to the States and we can go to WalMart or Target and get some for about $3. Actually, I guess I'll be the one who does without!

While we were at Kievskaya, Katie also rode her first escalator. She still doesn't quite have it mastered, but at least she's not losing her balance every time she gets on and off. Also while we were there, I put Katie in time out briefly, and a young Russian woman saw what happened and talked to Katie. I don't know what she said, but I got the feeling that she was telling Katie that she needs to obey her Mama. It was awfully sweet of that lady to take the time to talk to Katie in her own language. However, I guess it is also possible that she was telling Katie all sorts of terrible things, too. I doubt it, though.

When we got home from Kievskaya, we gave Katie her first bath with us. She wasn't bothered at all by it, and in fact seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. In fact, the whole time that Steve was washing her hair, she was flicking herself with water. It was very cute! Tonight, is another first in that Steve will be sleeping with her in the bed with me on the sofabed. I've been kicked in the head enough times that I'm choosing the sofabed with the questionable smell and the boulder-like feel. I'm not sure which is better, but I've been averaging 2-3 hours of sleep each night so hopefully this will be better. Steve hasn't been sleeping much better so it's probably a wash.

We also had Katie's first cry tonight. We're pretty sure it was just a sleepy cry. As Steve was putting her to bed, she got all teary. Shortly after, we heard her cry so I went in and talked to her (as if she could understand me) and ran my fingers through her hair. She stopped crying but never said anything so I left once she was better. Soon after, we heard her sucking on her fingers, and she was asleep about 20 minutes later.

We have some great pictures comemorating this day of firsts, but we didn't get them in the computer today so I'll send some later. Steve will go with Andrei to pick up Katie's passport tomorrow morning, and then we're planning on going to Red Square after her nap.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Day in Moscow

Here is Katie during her first nap with us yesterday, complete with fingers in her mouth.
Here is Katie typing her first post this morning on this blog. Didn't she do a great job?
Daddy and Katie watching Cinderella
After the doctor left this morning, Steve and Katie watched Cinderella while I was on the computer. We went to a park after that to play. This park is several blocks away on the way to the Metro station. It has a play area shaped like a pirate ship with ladders and slides, and then it has some other equipment. Katie was not at all impressed with the slides, but she would swing all day long. The swings here in Russia are different than in America. Instead of chains, there are metal pipes, and instead of flexible rubber seats, they are all made of wood. We eventually stopped swinging, though, so other kids could have a turn.
There were many statues in the park, too: elephant, tortoises, mushrooms, fish, lady, man, other various animals, etc. She didn't want to get on the big ones, but she was okay on the little ones. The temperature the last 3 days has been in the upper 70s, and Andrei was talking yesterday about how hot it is and how humid it is. Ha! He has no idea!
When we returned "home" we ate lunch, and Katie took her nap. It was a long one today - 3 hours, and Steve and I joined in on the nap about halfway through. Aren't family naps great? Then Steve left to go pick up our visa registrations and to buy a few things while Katie and I stayed at the apartment. We went outside to the little play area that's right here, and once again she paid no attention to the ladders and slides but stayed perfectly content on the swing. She has eaten much better today than yesterday and finished her dinner in a reasonable amount of time. We put her to bed and then realized that the 3 hour nap may have caused a problem. At 10:30 she was still awake, staying in bed and keeping herself amused. I think she has just now drifted off, and it's almost 11:00! We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting Settled and Adjusted

Andrei was supposed to pick us up yesterday at 9:00 to take us to the orphanage. We were both awake at 5:00 and up by 7:00, so we were up and ready to go before 8:00. Steve went to go exchange some money, and when he returned at 8:00, Andrei was already outside. He said he wanted to leave early to be at the orphanage by 9:00. Now, it was no big deal since we were already ready, but what would have happened if we had slept better and had just gotten up at 8:00? You know, we're trying to be laid back and flexible about everything, but it's little things like that that make me a little annoyed. Communication is a wonderful thing, but it has to be used!

Anyway, we drove to the orphanage and stopped by a grocery store on the way. Andrei went in and came out with 2 cakes and 4 packages of shortbread-like cookies. Steve and I began to wonder, "Is there going to be a party? Should we be doing something more?" As always, Andrei was silent, and we continued on to the orphanage. As it turns out, 1 cake and 2 of the cookie packages were for the director, and the other cake and the other 2 cookie packages were for the workers in her room. We had taken a little spiral notebook and the director and one of Katie's caregivers wrote her a lovely note. At least I think they're lovely; we're going to try and get Andrei to translate them for us. That way, when Katie gets older, she can have that piece of her past. As we were playing with her just outside her room (waiting for Andrei), her group left her room to go outside. Since Katie would be gone when they returned, they all said goodbye to her. The workers gave her lots of hugs and kisses, and one of the boys in her room came to her, and they embraced and shared kisses. It was too sweet!

Katie is now on my lap and says hi. Here she is. kvf ncn mm ,d ,m d d f m, m mm f mm m m f mf mfm n b mn mn mn k m m bm .

After leaving the orphanage, we went and got her picture taken for her passport. After that, we went back to the orphanage to pick up a document that they had been working on while we were gone. It was a good thing that we went back, too, because we had forgotten to get her photo album and teddy bear that we had left with her on our first trip. There were no tears when we left, but Katie seemed unsure of what was going on. In the car, she was absolutely fascinated with everything that she saw. It was awfully fun watching her experience all these new things. After leaving the orphanage again, we went to the Ministry of Education to get the letter necessary for her passport. We stayed in the car, and when Andrei returned, he said the letter would be ready at 2:00. Therefore, Andrei took us back to the apartment, where Katie and I ate lunch while Steve and Andrei filled out the embassy paperwork. Then they left to pick up the letter from the MOE, and to go apply for Katie's passport. Katie took a nap while they were gone. It took her awhile to go to sleep because she was too busy talking to me. On the one hand, it was good to see her being so vocal (I took that to mean that she's feeling more comfortable with us), but on the other hand, it was nap time not talking time. She eventually went to sleep with her head hanging off the bed so she could see me around the partition.

I was so encouraged by what I saw while she napped. Many children from orphanages will do what's called the "orphanage rock." That's where they rock themselves back and forth as a way to soothe themselves while in bed. Katie didn't do anything like that. Instead, she put her left index and middle fingers in her mouth and sucked. It was so wonderful to see her pacify herself in a typical fashion. After her nap, Steve came back from his afternoon with Andrei, and they had done everything they needed to do. We still needed to register our visas, so Steve left again to do that while Katie had a snack and watched, "The Little Mermaid."

After dinner, Steve and I were fading fast with only 3 hours of sleep the night before, so we all went to bed together at about 8:45. Katie and I were in the bed, and Steve was on the sofabed. I was so tired that I fell asleep almost instantly, but Katie kept brushing my hair back from my face and giving me kisses, which kept waking me up. She was being so sweet and loving, though, that I didn't really mind!

This morning, Andrei and the doctor came by at around 8:00 to examine her. He said that she is in perfect health, and that even though she is small, she is proportional. He suspects that her biological parents were simply small as well. He said that she must have been a favorite in the orphanage because her verbal skills are so good. We've heard from 3 different people now that she was a favorite. Most kids from orphanages have a speech delay, but she is on target. We have no idea what she is saying, but she's very passionate about some things. For instance, we have heard these phrases alot.

da coo dya Mama
da bu du mwa mo
ba te da
me ta da du ee

She smiles when we repeat them back to her, but we have no idea what she is saying. The doctor also told us that the orphanages teach the children to be very self-sufficient, and they would like for us to continue that and to not turn her into a "typical American child who won't be able to tie shoelaces until they're 25." We've tried so hard to not be offensive with anything we say, but apparently that doesn't go both ways. I was really bothered by that statement for so many reasons. I think he made that statement because her shoes today have velcro with a fake buckle on them. I think he would have preferred a real buckle that she would have to fasten, and since they didn't, he assumed that we were going to do everything for her and make everything easier than necessary for her. Talk about jumping to conclusions! Except for that one comment, though, he was extremely nice and easy to talk to.

We've been calling her IrinaKatie since we've had her in the apartment to start transitioning her to her new name, and this morning she is already responding to just Katie. She loves all her new clothes, and just turns back and forth in the mirror after getting dressed.

She is a pretty good eater, but she is so slow! She gets the job done, though. With finger foods she is faster. We already knew that she loved goldfish crackers, and we have learned also that she likes blueberry muffins and raisins, but pineapple didn't go over too well. She ate her mac and cheese and chicken noodle soup so slowly yesterday that either she's not too thrilled about the spoon, or she's not too thrilled with the food. We'll see.

Now we're done with work until Thursday. Andrei will pick up only Steve at 8:00 Thursday morning to go pick up the passport. So we have the rest of today and all day tomorrow to do what we want. We think we might go to a park today, and go to the zoo tomorrow. We'll let you know.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

We're Here!

We arrived in Moscow this morning shortly after 10:00. Our flights were uneventful except my video screen didn't work so Steve and I just traded seats periodically during the flight. After we went through passport control, customs, and got our bags, we went to find Andrei, but Sergei was there to pick us up. Since he doesn't speak any English, he called Andrei so we could talk to him, and once again we are reminded that when adopting internationally it is paramount that we be flexible! As it turns out, we were not able to get Katie today. Andrei said it's because no one is open on Sundays. However, when we were here for our second trip we were able to go to the orphanage to see Katie on Sunday. Apparently, we can visit her on Sundays, but not pick her up on Sundays. Also, Andrei mentioned several times on our last visit that when we arrived here, we would be able to get her immediately. To us, immediately would have been today. Instead, immediately is tomorrow morning. Andrei is picking us up at 9:00 in the morning, and we will go get Katie first. Then we will go to the Ministry of Education to get the letter that we need to apply for her passport. Then we'll go get her picture taken for the passport. Then we'll go apply for the passport. This will probably take all day, and so Katie will probably not get much of a nap, and she'll probably get pretty cranky and scared with that being her first day with us. However, she may surprise us. We'll let you know tomorrow.

When we got to our apartment at around noon, we were pleased. This is by far our favorite apartment we've stayed in (It's also the most expensive, but not by much). The other two provided shelter, a bed, and warmth, but they were pretty basic. This one is much more comfortable and spacious. Instead of having 3-4 tiny tiny rooms with narrow hallways, it is a studio apartment with a partition separating the bed from the living area, and the kitchen is along the opposite wall from the bed. The sofa folds out into a bed as well, so our plan is for one of us to sleep in the bed with Katie, and for the other to sleep on the sofa bed. We may change this plan once we get her, but this way we can put her to bed at a good time and we can stay up a little later without both of us trying to sleep on the sofabed. It's pretty small.

Our apartment has a little play area / park right behind it that will be perfect on nice days to let her play. We also have a supermarket right around the corner, which is very convenient. We didn't walk around much today except to get some groceries. Instead we both took pretty big naps. We may not be able to sleep much tonight, but we'll hope for the best. We also may not sleep much tonight because we are so excited to be getting her tomorrow.

The boys are at the Lake House at Table Rock Lake, so they should have a fun final week before school starts. Please pray that the remainder of our trip is safe, that Katie adjusts well to living with us, that all goes smoothly with her passport and the embassy, and that the conflict in Georgia has no affect on this process whatsoever.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We're Counting Down

Not much has changed since our last post; we are just crossing things off our to-do list as we complete them. We're just about ready to go except for packing and a few other things. It's hard to believe that we will see Katie again on Sunday, and she will be ours forever from that day forward. I don't really feel excited yet, but I think it's because that realization hasn't sunk in yet. Saturday morning when we're sitting on the plane getting ready to take off, I know that I'll be excited because there will be nothing left for us to do except sit on a plane, in an airport, or in a car for about 21 hours and then she'll be ours. Wow!

This morning I took the boys for their well-child exams. They were both very pleased that shots would not be involved. That was the first question out of Alex's mouth when the nurse came for the vitals! Derek is in the 25th percentile in both height and weight, and Alex is in the 33rd for height and the 75th for weight. The funny part is that they both weighed exactly 51.0 pounds! So when we went to the water park this afternoon, it worked out well for them to sit on opposite sides of the innertube as we floated down the lazy river. Perfectly balanced! Considering Derek was born 3 1/2 months early, weighing a mere 1 pound and 7 ounces, and he spent 5 years on a feeding tube, I'm very pleased with his 51 pounds! Go, Derek!

On another note, when I wrote the post about Derek's T ball banquet, I left something out. There was a video montage at the end that was put to music. We didn't see Derek in any of the pictures, but that's not what caught our attention. One of the songs that was used was one that neither Steve nor I had ever heard before, and it really spoke to us so I wanted to share it with you. I don't like some of the word choices (saying that an adopted child is not "my own" -- my children are more mine than many biological families out there), and I don't think I agree with the term "hero," but the thoughts and images in this song are right on the money, and hit home so hard that Steve and I felt that this song was written for us. I hope you enjoy it.

by Isaacs

Momma combs his hair and Daddy helps him brush his teeth
Day after day for thirty years the same routine
The special needs he lives with make life seem so unfair
But he thanks God every day cause he knows Mom and Dad are there

(chorus) He's a hero and she's a hero
It doesn't matter that nobody knows their name
They keep on giving to make life worth living
Might go unnoticed but they're heroes just the same

They tried for many years to have a baby of their own
But God knew a little girl who didn't have a home
Someone else's burden was their blessing in disguise
And now she's got a Mom and Daddy there to hold her when she cries


Every single parent who must carry twice the load
And those who sacrifice to raise a child that's not their own
They dedicate their time to make a difference in someone else's life
And in my eyes


They might go unnoticed but they're heroes just the same.

This might be my new favorite song. I got choked up just reading back over these lyrics. So with that, I'll sign off, but stay tuned -- we leave for Moscow on Saturday!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hold on, Katie. We're Coming!!

Well, the boys and I had a great time at the lake with my parents. We rode go-karts and played arcade games on the strip, and we rode the boat and went tubing. It was nice to get away for awhile, but poor Steve got dumped with everything that happened.

We weren't supposed to hear anything until Wednesday, which is why we decided to go ahead and go to the lake. Instead, Steve got an email Monday from Olga stating that Andrei had gone here, there, and yonder on Monday and discovered that Moscow City no longer requires adoption visas; a regular tourist visa is all they need. Therefore, we don't need any letter and nothing has to be processed through migration services. We can leave for Moscow whenever we want to. This was good news, but we were a little irritated at the fact that we lost a week -- not because we had to wait 7 more days, but because of the timing of everything. We had wanted to travel Aug 2-9 because it just fit perfectly in our schedule even down to the fact that it was a bye week in Steve's softball league. I would have had to change one doctor's appointment, but that would have been fine. Instead, we will miss seeing my aunt and cousin from Texas, who are coming for a visit (haven't seen them in months/years), and they won't be able to see Katie. My parents' church is having a 50th anniversary celebration for the church, and many people who used to attend will be coming back for that. We planned on going and taking Katie, but now we won't be back in time for it. We should return home on a Sunday, Derek starts school on Monday, and Alex starts school on Tuesday. We were hoping for some nice family bonding time before the boys went back to school, but instead we're going to hit the ground running. Fortunately, Steve will be taking a few days off after we get home so we can try and establish some sort of routine with all the craziness. I'm thrilled that we have our travel dates, but I wish there hadn't been all this confusion with the visas so that we could be leaving this Saturday. I know God's timing is perfect and mine is not, but I gotta tell ya -- I'm just not seeing it right now. However, all griping aside, we are thrilled to be bringing Katie home, and we'll do whatever it takes to make this work. Big Picture!

Soooo, we leave on August 9, and we will return on August 17. We would return on the 16th, but the rates were ridiculously high, so we'll stay in Moscow one more day and come home on Sunday. If all goes according to plan (which it rarely does, but it's always nice to pretend that it will), we will arrive in Moscow Sunday afternoon, and go pick up Katie from the orphanage. That will be her last day in the orphanage forever! Then on Monday, we will go to the Department of Education and get a letter (which is in lieu of the adoption visa) that we will take to the passport office and apply for her passport. This takes 3 days to process, and we do not know of any work that needs to be done during that time, so we plan on going sight-seeing with Katie around Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday, the passport should be ready, but there's no guarantee. Assuming it's ready, we'll go throught the U.S. Embassy on Friday, get her visa, and register her with the Russian Consulate. Then Saturday will be another free day before we fly home on Sunday. Yea! However, if the passport is NOT ready on Thursday, then we won't be able to fly home on Sunday. We'll have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to fly home.

So while I was tubing, go-karting, and boating with my boys, Steve was on the phone and the computer getting everything squared away. Getting the visas started was no problem because we sent the passports and the visa application last week. Getting the apartment wasn't a problem either; the one Albina recommended sounded great. Getting the plane tickets was a nightmare, which included more phone calls and hold time than I can remember, and 2 trips to the airport. He couldn't get Katie's ticket over the phone like he could ours; he had to purchase it from the ticket counter at the airport. We could have just gone through Albina, but Delta gave us a better rate than they gave her so we went through Delta. Steve told me today that as soon as I got home from my vacation, he wanted to take a break. He was TIRED! I joked that he should try doing all that while taking care of two boys. He didn't find the humor in that. :-)

Now that all the particulars are taken care of, we have 10 days before we leave. We have alot to do, but we should have enough time to get everything done. We are excited to be going, but also a little overwhelmed at all that needs to be done. All we can say is that we have the BEST parents in the world who have put their lives on hold the same way we have so that they are available to watch our boys whenever we need them. We could not be going through this process if it weren't for them. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in this case, it's taking a village just to GET our child. This has been one of the most emotionally draining processes we have ever been through, but it will all be worth it once we get her home. Hold on, Katie. We're coming!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Derek's T Ball Banquet

Last Monday, we had Derek's T Ball Banquet. Derek plays with the Exceptionals, a special needs T Ball and Coach Pitch league. This was Derek's 3rd year to play with them, and he just loves it. The kids range from 5-21, with any sort of physical, mental, or emotional challenge, and I think every one of them absolutely loves playing. There are "buddies" that volunteer their time and energy to be one-on-one with these kids. Usually they are boy scouts, girls softball teams, or individuals that want to help. Sterling Farber, the man who started it, was honored at a Royal's game in April, and many of the families went to the game in support. The league is completely underwritten so the families don't have to pay anything. It's just wonderful what people will do.

Here is Derek with his trophy
And here's the "love fest" I mentioned in an earlier post. Derek was on my lap, and Alex was on Derek's lap, and they were both so tickled at the whole thing.

We are so blessed to have the children that God has given us, and we appreciate them every day!
On another note, the boys and I are heading down to Table Rock Lake with my parents for a few days. We won't hear anything about the adoption until Wednesday, so we decided to get out of KC while we know we can. Therefore, I won't be writing any posts until at least Wednesday, hopefully with an update. Stay tuned...